Test scores delay raises issues for PARCC states

Test scores delay raises issues for PARCC states

(Ohio) In what may prove an enormous setback to supporters of the Common Core State Standards – at least in Ohio – results from next spring’s test scores based on the new content goals may not be available until 2016.

A report in the Cleveland Plain Dealer Tuesday quotes the vice chairman of the Ohio State Board of Education as saying that the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers – one of two national consortiums developing new tests based on the Common Core – has said it will delay a decision on “cut scores,” which will push back the entire accountability system.

No public notice about the move appears to have been posted on the PARCC website but if followed, the action will force Ohio schools to begin the 2015-16 fall term without data on student performance from prior spring testing and, in turn, without any ability to update school and district performance indicators.

The delay comes as opposition to the Common Core is growing within the Legislature, although the new standards have the support – so far – of Republican Gov. John Kasich.

A bill from state Rep. Andy Thompson, R-Marietta that would repeal the Common Core, remains pending before lawmakers and while it may not move before the end of the session in December, there are expectations that the issue will not go away.

Just this week one of the key supporters of the repeal bill, Rep. Matt Huffman, R-Lima, said the Common Core represents an intrusion of federal power.

“We need to realize we are a very diverse country,” Huffman told the Lima News. “Things are not going to be the same in Van Wert as they are in Miami, Florida.”

He noted that there are as many as 30 strong opponents of the standards in the Legislature as well as another 25 that would block adoption of the budget if the Common Core is not repealed.

The Plain Dealer reported a PARCC spokesman said the cut scores – the points on the scale that would indicate whether a student has achieved proficiency – cannot be established until students actually take the test, which will be administered for the first time this spring.

In a similar move, the governing states of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium agreed to wait to set cut scores until after field testing of the new assessments took place. The difference is that those field tests took place last spring.

So far, Smarter Balanced officials have agreed to the process that will be used to define the cut scores – action that is expected this month following a series of workshops with educators and policy officials.

The transition from old content standards and related tests to the Common Core and new assessments has been problematic in a number of states. In California, students and teachers were given a year to adjust to the new system before applying accountability mandates and sanctions but that flexibility came only after a lengthy and heated fight with the U.S. Department of Education.

The announcement from PARCC that its system will not produce results in time to meet federal reporting requirements would seem to put new pressure on Education Secretary Arne Duncan to relax the accountability requirements.